Taking My Foot out of the Grave: I’m a Parent, Not Dead

Hubby turned The Big Four-O a few weeks ago.

He’d just come home from a particularly stressful business trip, and he was greeted with a collapsed sewer line and an expensive car repair. Then a stomach bug came through our home like a case of the Motaba virus, and Hubby’s mood quickly shifted from worn-out to ornery.

Nevertheless, I believe a birthday is reason to celebrate. I took him out for sushi with plans to see a movie. By 8:15, he was ready to go home.

“Honey, we’re a middle-aged married couple with two rambunctious girls,” he said. “This is it. We’re old.”

Not one to be defeated, I drove to a local mall. “We can at least walk off our dinner,” I reasoned. Hubby grumbled. We were home by 9:45 and asleep by 10:30.

A few days later, I met friends for our monthly book club meeting. I lamented to the girls that I wished Hubby and I got out more. The book club is my only consistent social engagement, and Hubby doesn’t even have that. I attempted to pair him with a friend’s husband for golf.

“We’ve got three kids,” my friend said. “Joe doesn’t play golf anymore.”

Hubby’s voice rang in my ear. This is it. We’re old.

Bull. I refuse to allow parenthood to become an 18-year sentence of sweat pants and exhaustion. After Mini Me was born, I knew that I needed adjust, or completely change, parts of my life in order to fulfill my responsibility to my daughter.

But I also have a responsibility to myself. There’s more to who I am than the title of mother. There’s the wife. The daughter. The sister. The friend. The writer. The a person underneath all of the titles. The one who cannot get lost.

Taking care of that person keeps me at my best, and I haven’t been doing a good job lately. I’ve fallen victim to the slippery slope of laundry and daycare dashes, and solo trips to Target are welcomed like a spa vacation. When I’m out of sync, physical and mental exhaustion peak. Patience and my sense of humor tank. The latter two are quite critical to parenting, and quite honestly, to life in general.

So I’m not waiting until the kids go off to college for my life to begin. Thursday yoga is back on the docket. (There’s a studio by the office and one by the house so there’s no excuse to miss a class.) The girls and I are visiting the museum for a special exhibit this weekend. A friend and I have a concert date lined up next month. Hubby doesn’t know it yet, but there are better date nights in our future that will last longer than 90 minutes.

We’re a long way from Shady Pines.

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Quality Time

My timelines are filled with posts and comments about slowing down. Challenges about how we spend our time. Chastisements for rushing our children. Reminders of the miracles we miss in the everyday.

Yeah, yeah. I got it.

But world keeps moving. My job expects me to show up on time and work while I’m there. The girls have school. In the weekday hours that don’t belong to my nine-to-five, Hubby and I focus on the basics — food, clean clothing and shelter. My girls very well can’t go out into the world dirty and unfed. Oh, and somewhere in those same hours of the day, I need to squeeze in a workout or two so I can combat these hypertensive, heart-unhealthy genes I inherited.

I don’t want my life to be a rote execution of schedules, but I find the thought of carving out time for quality time to be exhausting. It feels like one more thing for a to-do list that is already too long.

Perhaps I’m over thinking it.

This weekend, I spent 15 minutes holding a collapsable laundry basket while my daughters threw tennis balls into it. The TV was off because we had just come in from a marathon errand run. I forgot my bag in the car, so my mobile phone wasn’t a distraction. Actually, I didn’t miss my phone until it was time to set an alarm for the next morning.

It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but I’ve been reliving my girls’ reactions. Lil Ma clapped, stomped her feet and laughed so hard she lost her breath. Mini Me cheered on her sister and gleefully retrieved balls that missed the basket. The thought of their smiles have kept me smiling most of today.

Putting a permanent end to my mad dashes would be wonderful, but it’s not realistic right now. What I can do is better enjoy the little moments that come in between.

Under Pressure

I’m scattered. I haven’t been on top of things the way I’d like to be. I wish I could say that I haven’t been on top of things the way I usually am, but let’s be honest. Organized Me is a constant work in progress.

Hubby is traveling again for work, so we begin the “two weeks on, two weeks off” dance anew.  He was home for six months, so I’d forgotten what solo parenting duty was like. Getting three ladies dressed and out the door every morning is much easier with a little help.

Our daycare closed unexpectedly a few months back, and we couldn’t find a single place that could take both the girls. Lil Ma is at a daycare not too far from home, and Mini Me is in her school’s aftercare program. Both close at 6 p.m., and both have dollar-a-minute late fees. I work 35 minutes away and can’t get out the door before 5:15. A fortune in late fees seems inevitable.

Work is ramping up too. New projects are coming in daily, which is a great problem to have, unless, of course, there aren’t enough people to get them all done. I’m flitting from task to task with little time to give my best self to any one project. I squeezed in two business trips last week, and I nearly missed a family event because of it.

And then, there are the gnats. I have been over every inch of this house, and I can’t figure out where those little pests are coming from.  Vinegar, you say? I’ve caught nothing more than a few specks of dust.

My shoulders are up to my earlobes (again). My jaw aches.  I’ve had a few moments where I felt my heart racing. My doctor put me on a 24-hour monitor to check for issues. Thankfully, he found none.

Something I heard at church this past Sunday reminded me to calm down. One of the deacons gave a short inspirational message that ended with this: “Pain is inevitable. Misery is optional.”

Deacon H is tall, lean, and quiet. He speaks just above a whisper, and I’ve never seen him be anything less than jovial. Even when his family was in the midst of tragedy, he remained unchanged. His message Sunday was a glimpse into the faith that calms his spirit.

Allowing the nits and gnats of life to wreck havoc on my body is totally unacceptable. I’m taking a lesson from Deacon H and placing faith and my focus where it matters. Plus, Hubby may be out of town, but that doesn’t mean I’m all alone. My dad and stepmom agreed to pick up Mini Me each afternoon, and they’ll get both girls once a week so I can go to yoga.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever meet the Organized Me of my dreams. The Walking-By-Faith Me? She sounds a lot more appealing, and I’m striving to meet her soon rather than later.

Like Mother, Like Daughter: Arm Candy

I’ve created a monster.

Mini Me is an artist. She attacks every new project with a vigor I sometimes wish she’d use for cleaning her room. Her artistic endeavors can last for a few hours, or they can drag on for days. While she is in the midst of these spells, homework, chores and occasionally dinner, fall by the wayside.

Sound familiar? (See post on the fallout from my writing challenge.)

Her latest obsession is jewelry making. Sparkle and shine are close to my eight-year-old’s heart. So when I came with a bag full of colorful beads, I was prepared for her to be lost for a few days.

One weekend afternoon, we each made three bracelets. Then I left Mini Me to her own devices. Over the next week, she made 10 more. I doubt she’s done.

In addition to being prolific, my eight year old is also proud. She has no problem wearing her entire collection at once and explaining the placement of each and every bead. I’ve had to remind her on several school mornings that “less is more.” I said this, of course, as I piled on my own array of arm candy.

What I was not prepared for was the note I received from Mini Me’s teacher, Mrs. J.

“[The jewelry] is quite a distraction to her, her classmates, and me. She is constantly playing with the jewelry. Peers have told her it is a distraction. I have taken jewelry from her, but nothing seems to be working.”

I looked down at my arm after I read the note. I had on this:


And this:


I couldn’t help but laugh. That night, I had to put the chuckles aside and talk with Mini Me about the note.

“Why are you playing with your bracelets in class?” I pointed to the pile of rainbow and sparkle on the kitchen table.

“I’m not playing,” she said. “I’m arranging them.”

“Arranging them how? And why?”

“They’re so pretty, and you can wear them in different patterns.” She picked up a few and started to demonstrate her point.

I thought back to a conference call I took earlier that day. While a group disagreed about a deadline, I twirled blue beads around my wrist. Perhaps maintaing focus was something we could both improve.

I explained that while fashion and jewelry are fun, there is a time and and place for it. That place is not the middle of class or on a conference call.

Mini Me nodded, but I don’t think she was convinced. For now, though, we’ll reserve arm candy for the weekend.

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September Goal: Balance

The first week of September is already in the rear-view mirror. A last-minute trip to Tennessee and an overloaded work schedule left me with little time to write.

Last month, my dedication to the #31writenow challenge took too much of my attention. Now I’m trying to avoid the other extreme by ignoring writing completely.

So, I thought it wise to jot down a few goals for this month. Sharing them will help me focus and keep me honest.

Post two-three times per week. Before #31writenow, I had trouble meeting this goal. But after writing something every day for a month, a couple of times a week doesn’t seem that bad.

Return to yoga. (again) Similar to my relationship with writing, Yoga and I are either all in or all out. Missing one day will have me off the wagon for months. I signed up for an after-work yoga class that starts Monday. Hopefully, it will get me back on track.

Be an early riser. My love of sleep and the coziness of my bed are the main reasons I often skip yoga. I know good and well that the morning (before the kids rise) is my best opportunity for practice. I also know I feel much more with-it and focused when I spent 15 minutes on yoga and meditation.

Plan tomorrow plus two. Time Management guru Julie Morgenstern recommends ending each day with a review of tomorrow’s agenda plus the two days beyond. When I heed this advice, I start the day feeling prepared. Plus, it helps curb missed appointments.

I’ll keep you updated as the month progresses, but feel free to offer up a swift kick in the rear if I fail to do so.

What tips do you have for maintaining balance?

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